Before They’re Gone

One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic made more conspicuous was our mortality. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, there were news of people getting infected with the virus and dying a few days or weeks after, causing anxiety to many. At certain points, it did enter my mind that I could be alive now but that I could succumb to the virus in a few days.

Even this year, the plague of the virus may have slowed down in some countries, but it is showing no signs of stopping yet, with the different variants (such as the Delta variant, Lambda variant) suddenly appearing at certain countries in the globe.

I am not really in a morbid mood now, but the recent deaths of some colleagues because of illnesses made me think about health and wellness, life and death.

The first one was M who was in her 30s. She was a ray of sunlight, a very fashionable lady who likes to wear brightly-colored clothes. I never saw her frown or squint her eyes angrily. She almost always have this ready smile. As my fellow co-teacher then, she was well-loved by students. One of the things I remember about her was how fastidious she is with fashion. I was once wearing one of my then-favorite top, an ube-colored, long-sleeved polo shirt. She pinched a bit of fabric at my back and said, “Emi, if you just adjust this a bit, it will fit you perfectly.” Early on, I knew that she had a kidney problem. In one of our talks in the faculty room, she shared that she had a kidney transplant at the age of 18 and that although she would really like to be a mother one day, the drugs she took would certainly kill the baby. Despite her illness, she was cheerful and enthusiastic. News of her death in the last quarter of 2020 really made me sad. It was difficult to associate her pretty selfies and videos of her having fun to the concept of death.

The second is C. She was my kababayan and we grew up in the same hometown. Like M, she also battled a kidney ailment even posting pictures of her checkups and dialysis sessions in her social media accounts. I admired her strength, for showing her smiles despite her health problems. I also was a fan of her love posts about her and her “Kamahalan,” her hubby, although I never told her that. Her death last month was a surprise because her sweet smiles in countless photos showed how her determination was helping her win against a disease.

And just last week, another former co-teacher passed away. I used to work with D in a communication center for several years before we went to different schools/companies and eventually left the Philippines to work. He was a communication trainer, book author, a multi-awarded writer for stage, TV, and advertising and a host of many other talents. He and my younger sister have the same birthday and I recalled, that was what we talked about in our last message exchanges. D was a big, tall man but he was never intimidating. He was brilliant and although our last conversation at work was many years ago and we only had minutes of break in between classes, we were able to have some short but nice conversations.

Three deaths. And there are more. I observe how people would flood the social media accounts of those who passed away with messages and reminiscences, of things left unsaid, of plans they were unable to do, of how much they miss them.

This should be a reminder to us to tell the people we love that we love them, to compliment others when we see something beautiful in them, to tell our friends that we miss them, to dedicate that song and to give that cute/crazy little gift to make someone smile or laugh. We should not save these beautiful words and these lovely moments for that time when a colleague or loved one passes away. They should be expressed before they’re gone. ❤

We should not wait to give truckloads of flowers until such time the light dims from our dear ones’ eyes. Instead, we may consider giving that bouquet or even that single rose or sunflower or peony when their eyes can still see beauty and their heart can still feel our love.

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